Kansas City, KS (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin claimed his second Sprint Cup
Series win of the season by taking Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the race by leading 173 of 267 laps, but Hamlin
grabbed the top position from Truex with 31 laps remaining.
During the last round of pit stops under green, Hamlin pitted one lap before
Truex came in. Truex held a sizeable lead prior to the final stops, but after
the round was completed, Hamlin caught up with Truex.
The 400-mile race at Kansas had been under cloud cover for most of the race,
but when the sun broke through, Hamlin made his winning move by diving
underneath Truex for the position.
"It was a great day for our race team," said Hamlin, who led a total of 32
laps. "The pit crew did an amazing job there on the [final] green-flag pit
stop. [Crew chief] Darian [Grubb] made a great call to bring me in one lap
earlier. It was just a great team effort today."
Hamlin claimed his 19th career Sprint Cup victory. His first win this season
came in March at Phoenix. He joined three-time and defending series champion
Tony Stewart as the only repeat winners at this point of the season.
After not winning a race in 2011, Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team made a
crew chief change with Grubb coming on board. Grubb guided Stewart to the
series title last year but was released from Stewart-Haas Racing days after
they won the championship.
Truex made a valiant effort in the closing laps to reclaim the lead but fell
0.7 seconds short at the finish.
"I know Martin was driving his heart out, and I know it's disappointing not to
win in those situations when you have the dominant car," Hamlin said. "At the
end, we just tuned it in where it needed to be."
Truex was hoping to snap a 174-race winless streak. His first and only Sprint
Cup victory so far came in 2007 at Dover, which the Mayetta, NJ native
considers as his home track.
"When we put that last set of tires on, it wasn't anything like it was all day
long, just bad, bad loose for the first 20 laps of that run," Truex said.
"Once you lose the lead, it's hard to get it back. I was a little better than
he was at the end. It was just too hard to pass him."
Jimmie Johnson also challenged Truex for the lead at one point in the race.
Johnson wound up finishing third. Last weekend, he placed second to winner
Greg Biffle at Texas.
"We had good speed and could run second or third all day, but to catch
[Truex], we needed more, and we worked really hard through the middle part of
the race. I got a lot of speed but just couldn't pass him. I was hoping we
could do it on pit road or any other scenario."
Johnson's most recent win came last October at Kansas (14 races ago). He also
gave Hendrick Motorsports its 199th victory in NASCAR's premier series at this
1.5-mile track, but a Hendrick driver has not won a race since then. Dale
Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne also drive team owner Rick
Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, the current points
leader, rounded out the top-five.
Kevin Harvick finished sixth, followed by Earnhardt Jr., Kahne, Carl Edwards
and Kyle Busch.
While Truex had a very impressive run, his Michael Waltrip Racing teammates
suffered engine woes during the race. Clint Bowyer blew his motor just past
halfway and wound up finishing 36th, while Mark Martin's engine expired with a
dozen laps remaining, as he placed 33rd.
Truex has had a superb season so far in his second year with MWR. His runner-
up finish allowed him to move up to second in the point standings. He is 13
points behind Biffle.
A.J. Allmendinger started on the pole and led the first 44 laps, but
he also experienced engine trouble and spent several laps behind the
wall for repairs. The Penske Racing driver ended up 32nd.